Microsoft denies Apple link in hardware move
A senior Microsoft executive has denied the software giant is copying competitor Apple by releasing its own computer hardware.
Vahe Torossian, corporate vice president of Microsoft's worldwide small and midmarket solutions and partners group, denied the suggestion during the Tech Ed New Zealand conference in Auckland last week.
"Let them say what they want to say," Torossian said.
Apple has always designed and manufactured its own personal computer software and hardware while Microsoft has predominantly written software to sell to partners such as Hewlett-Packard, which have installed it on machines of varying specifications.
Microsoft made the surprise announcement that it was going into the hardware business in June when chief executive Steve Ballmer gave details of the Surface tablet. Even Microsoft New Zealand staff didn't know it was in development - the price and release date are still secret.
Such tactics smack of Apple's tactics around a new iPad rather than the previously open Microsoft.
Torossian said such secrecy was necessary as products needed to be ready before information went to the market.
"I can't tell you more today about what we are going to do with Surface."
The announcement of the Surface, Auckland software developer Ben Gracewood said, had businesses put holds on orders for Apple's iPads because the Microsoft option looked more versatile - it could run a variety of Windows-based software.
The touch-optimised Surface will come with Microsoft's latest personal computer operating system, Windows 8, which includes the Windows Store where users can download new applications - something else Apple has done with its devices.
"The app store is the extension of the product. Everybody is customising their devices," Torissian said.
Windows XP, Vista and 7 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 for NZ$50, a fraction of the price previous versions of Windows sold for.
This aggressive pricing strategy also mirrors Apple's own of late.
"There are 625 million Windows 7 users in the world. This is what we are going after with Windows 8," Torossian said.
Despite the comparisons between the two giants, there are also many differences.
Apple continues to remain focused on the development of its own hardware and software but Microsoft has huge muscle in the corporate software space.
Microsoft has recently moved into cloud storage with data centres holding clients' information, some running its online Office 365 suite, the world over.
Torossian said partnerships with the likes of Hewlet-Packard and Dell, which will release their own Windows 8 machines, were still critical to Microsoft.
"Some manufacturers have done a very good job," Torossian said.
Since he joined the company 20 years ago it had matured.
"It's employing 100,000 people now, I think it was only 2000 when I started," he said.
"The growth has been huge."
It is as though Microsoft has gone from version 1.0 to 2.0.
"2.0 is better than 1.0," Torossian said. "We are coming back."